If you're interested in exploring the Historic Area more, many of the trails in the park have SOME access - but Old Salem Turnpike loops around it. You can access that area either by running up through Lot D (where you end if you come from Lot A) or at any of the points where the Historic trails meet Old Salem Turnpike. They're clearly marked, just look for a historic building set off to the side, with a path leading to it.
Trail runners should be advised that the first section going FROM Lot A north is pretty steep. If you'd prefer to run it uphill, you may want to start at Lot D - the downhill FROM Lot D will be gentler. If you want to run the steep part downhill first and end on a gentler uphill, then start from Lot A. You'll have plenty of room to share the trail with anyone else who is using it, and because it was paved at one time, you won't have to worry about roots or rocks.
Old Salem Turnpike has the benefit of having been paved at one time - it's packed gravel now, but still a stable surface on a wide trail. To get back to your starting point, you can choose to run along the road between Lot D (where you end) and Lot A (where you start), or you can travel through the historic area back to where it intersects OST near the trailhead.
In late May, the trail was shaded and cool. Be aware of the slope! You'll start out running downhill and end heading uphill. There's plenty of room to pull off the trail if you need a breather, but if you take your time, it shouldn't be too taxing for anyone who is comfortable in the woods. If you choose to start at Lot D, the last hill up to Lot A from where it breaks off the overlapping River Walk Trail
does certainly feel steeper going up than it did coming down. Having taken this one both ways, I think I prefer A to D.
As you come around about a quarter of the way into the trail, you'll see yellow blazes heading off to Palmer's Pond
Trail. If you're on Old Salem Turnpike to enjoy the leisurely stroll on a wide, mostly paved surface, be advised that Palmer's Pond
, while rewarding, is completely different: it's a connector to Deer Run Trail
, and both are much more rugged. Palmer's Pond
can get steep and has some narrow dirt switchbacks and tall steps. If you're unsure of your footing, I suggest following Old Salem Turnpike. You'll get to enjoy the waterfront views after the downward climb, when it parallels the Roanoke River along the River Walk Trail
. This section is relatively stable and flat, and makes for a quick, pleasant outing.
While you're here, listen for the train on the other side of the river!
I was lucky enough on my outing in late May to see a wild turkey right around the first turn in the bend down the path - she hopped up over some fallen logs and darted into the brush. If you listen, you'll definitely hear squirrels in the trees, and probably see them on the trail. The train doesn't quite count as an animal, but I personally enjoyed hearing it across the river.
This trail isn't bad for bugs, as it is quite well-maintained. There could be some gnats down along the river depending on the time of day you go.